|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Before talking performance, let’s talk design first. As one of the first vehicles developed under Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design philosophy, the Tucson was revolutionary when it broke cover in 2009. Penned by, bet you didn’t know—former BMW designer Thomas Buerkle, the Tucson is full of sweeping curves and a coupe-like roofline that make it look ten times more modern than its most immediate predecessor. Five years on, the design is holding up well. Taken on its own, the Tucson still does look futuristic. With that in mind, Hyundai designers didn’t mess with the sheet metal for the refresh, but they did swap the lights and the wheels to blend it with the family look. The front projectors with LED park light “eyebrows” are clearly influenced by the Santa Fe (and this isn’t a bad thing) while the rear LED brake lamps give off an unmistakably cool molten lava appearance when lit at night. The wheels, though keeping the same size and diameter as before, are now painted in gunmetal gray.
Like the exterior, the 2014 Tucson’s interior is almost untouched from when it launched. For the mid-cycle refresh, Hyundai revamped the climate control buttons (now finished in rubberized matte plastics) and the shifter (from a gate-type to a more conventional set-up). Overall, the interior remains a modern and sleek design, particularly in the X-shaped center console, but the choice of materials is now lagging behind the competition, especially in the expansive use of hard, scuff-prone plastics. It doesn’t help that the driving environment’s getting dated as well. The leather/fabric combination seats are generally comfortable but the ideal driving position is more upright than usual because of the lack of a telescopic steering column—something that’s bog-standard in every other compact crossover now. Space-wise, the Tucson is still up there. Those in the back will enjoy comfy seating for a three adult spread complete with their own air conditioning vents and three-point seatbelts.
For 2014, Hyundai upped the entertainment system of the Tucson by swapping out the OEM radio for an aftermarket job from DVD/GPS-go-to-guys, AVT. Though it does give the Tucson much more entertainment options (and a built-in Bluetooth hands-free and rear parking camera to boot), the interface is clunky with a display that washes out at the slightest hint of sunlight. Plus, it leaves an unsightly panel gap.
Now to the part you’ve all been waiting for: performance. The biggest headline for 2014 is that Hyundai has swapped the 2.0-liter Theta-II engine for the Nu engine. On paper, it seems would-be owners just lost the lottery with a power decrease from 165 horsepower to 158 horsepower and torque decrease from 197 Nm to 192 Nm. But what’s 7 horsepower and 5 Nm between car enthusiasts? Based purely on seat-of-the-pants experience, the 2014 Tucson feels much perkier and livelier from a standstill. Perhaps the power curve is less peaky or that majority of the power is available down low, but whatever the reason is, there’s good pull. However, mashing the throttle won’t result in a punchier response. It’s as if the Tucson’s power is already dialed up 90 percent with the accelerator half-pressed, so adding 50 percent more effort just results in 10 percent more gain. The lack of straight-line performance aside, the new engine is noticeably quieter, smoother, and slightly more fuel efficient than its predecessor. Just how fuel efficient? Where the old Theta-II mill mustered only 8.26 km/L in in city driving, the Nu-powered Tucson does it at 8.85 km/L or a 6 percent improvement. This figure goes up to 14.28 km/L on the highway.
In terms of road manners, the 2014 Tucson is already feeling its age and is starting to get left behind by the competition. The electric power steering has almost no feel and is rather slow responding near the center. This has been purposely done probably to improve its highway behavior, but in reality, it’s still very susceptible to crosswinds and road undulations. Once or twice, you’ll find yourself fighting with the wheel just to keep it in a straight line. And it’s a shame given it’s one of the quietest compact crossovers in the market today. The suspension is on the firm side and this makes the Tucson a surprisingly spirited and agile crossover to take into corners. On the flipside, because this suspension is paired with a not-so-stiff body structure, it tends to send every road imperfection straight into the cabin. It’s odd because it doesn’t seem to like left/right bumps, but can take front/rear bumps quiet well. Finally, though the brakes bite well; it has a vague initial bite which robs some driver confidence. Basically, it feels like the very same Tucson that came out in 2009.
It’s normal for carmakers to hike up the prices of its refreshed models and the Tucson’s no different. But what does the price of the new drivetrain cost? P 1,288,000. This price hike of more than P 100,000 would be easier to swallow if Hyundai put more standard equipment apart from the new engine. Alas, Hyundai has kept everything steady. The 2014 model loses the steering wheel controls in favor of a back-up camera and a GPS navigation system. The rest of the equipment is the same: dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes, rear parking sensors, multi-information display, and leather/fabric combinations seats. And there’s the rub. At its new price range, the Tucson is already precariously close to the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and the Mazda CX-5—much more polished, more refined, and certainly newer crossovers. The Tucson will still sway buyers who’re after fuel efficiency more than anything else, but it’s clear that time hasn’t been so kind to it.
2014 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS
|Ownership||Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS 6 A/T|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||158 @ 6,200|
|Nm @ rpm||192 @ 4,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,520|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||No|